Juan Manuel Lopez Faces Rafael Marquez: Puerto Rican Flair vs. Mexican Machismo

Fred KelleyCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2010

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 06:  (L-R) Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico celebrates after defeating Sergio Medina of Argentina during their WBO junior featherweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena December 6, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On November 6, 2010 the lights of the MGM Grand will shine on the up-and-coming Puerto Rican superstar Juan Manuel Lopez (29-0-26) as he squares off against Mexican pugilist Rafael Marquez (39-5-35).

Lopez made his U.S. debut at Madison Square Garden on June 11, 2005, fighting on the under-card of prevailing countryman Miguel Cotto.

Since that time Juanma has displayed his talents in a variety of venues, making the statement, he’s willing to fight anytime anywhere.

In 2008, with only 21 bouts under his belt, Lopez stepped in the ring with WBO Super Bantamweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon—a Mexican fighter known for his unorthodox/defenseless style, and incredible knockout power.

It took just over one minute for Lopez to drop De Leon for the first time in his career.  Finally with a little over 30 seconds left in Round 1, De Leon succumbs to a barrage of punches delivered precisely by Lopez and referee Mike Ortega calls a halt to the bout.

That night in Atlantic City, Juanma showed the type of boxing ability and excitement that would land him on a big PPV under-card.

Six months later, Juanma appeared against Sergio Medina as an under-card match for the highly anticipated De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao bout. Juanma stunned spectators with another first-round stoppage, and dropped Medina in under a minute and a half.

Another Puerto Rican sensation was born.

Rafael Marquez is the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez, and is also under the tutelage of legendary trainer Nacho Beristain.

Rafael has earned a reputation as a great counter puncher in his own right. Boxing fans know the younger Marquez best from his epic battles with Israel Vasquez.

For every Ali there’s a Frazier, for every Ward there’s a Gatti and for every Barrera there’s Morales. Vasquez brought out the best in Marquez. 

In these career-defining bouts Marquez displayed heart, tenacity, strength and the sheer will to win. At times displaying brilliant defense and at others, standing and trading with reckless regard for his own safety.

In the fourth and final bout with Vasquez, Rafael delivered a commanding stoppage in Round 3, ending the series at two wins each.

Now the Mexican warrior will enter the ring against a Puerto Rican sensation, another for the history books, and put titles, bragging rights and pride on the line. 

The boxing rivalry between these two countries dates all the way back to the early 1930’s. Mexican machismo versus Puerto Rican flair, both countries have won their share of battles and Lopez vs. Marquez should not disappoint. 

Marquez steps in the ring against a younger, stronger, faster Lopez. However, ring experience and ability to take a punch go to Marquez.

Juanma, who has been knocked down a few times, is eager to get quick stoppages. Lopez tends to swing wildly leaving him open to counter punches.

Most recently in Round 1 against Bernabe Concepcion, Lopez became anxious to deliver a knockout and pursued Concepcion to the corner. Lopez was caught with a counter punch that dropped him.

Although Lopez was never seriously hurt, evidenced by the stoppage of Concepcion in Round 2, the trips to the canvas leave doubt in his ability to take punishment from a skilled counter puncher like Marquez.

It will be interesting to see Marquez against a southpaw of this caliber.

In the last five years Marquez has entered the squared circle only one other time against a Southpaw—Ricardo Vargas.

Vargas had 10 losses to his record and a weak 29 percent knockout ratio when he faced Marquez.

Marquez was able to pull out a lopsided unanimous decision at the end of 12 rounds.    

Marquez will be the toughest test Lopez has fought to date, and a win here will clear the stage for a Lopez vs. Gamboa dream match. 

Both Lopez and Gamboa are under contract with Top Rank, and the bout will likely happen unless Marquez places Juanma on the canvas for good.

Prediction—Lopez by knock out. Marquez’s heart and boxing skill will ensure it does not happen early however. He will be stopped before the championship rounds 10-12.